If you’re looking for historical accuracy in History Channel’s Project Blue Book series, maybe it’s time to stop looking. Yes, it’s only supposed to be “based” on reported events, but this week’s episode, “Operation Paperclip,” really cemented the drama as fictional, with little to no relation to actual events. To quickly recap, if you managed to sit through the whole thing, crop circles weren’t really reported much until the 1980s, and even J. Allen Hynek concluded the Chiles-Whitted UFO was likely a meteor.
And for Pete’s sake, Hynek never claimed to have seen an alien floating in a vat.
The namesake of the episode, Operation Paperclip, WAS a real thing, though, in which German scientist Wernher von Braun, inventor of the V-2 rocket, was brought to America along with about 1,600 of his compatriots to ensure the space program kept a military and prestige edge over Russia’s efforts. The program started out controversial, for obvious reasons, but von Braun became something of a celebrity, and even collaborated with Walt Disney on educational films (read into that what you will).
Von Braun was a singular genius without whom many are sure we never would have made it to the Moon. If you look in some of the more frightening corners of the internet, you’ll even find people who think he was so brilliant, he was perfecting flying saucers prior to the end of World War II.
The “Nazi saucer” myth gains traction about once a decade, and there are some easily understood reasons for that. Von Braun WAS a godd**n genius, so if anyone could have engineered a flying saucer, it stands to reason it would have been him. And U.S. pilots DID report weird things following them in the European theater, that they called “foo fighters” (the subject of next week’s episode; it should be noted that German pilots saw them, too). Plus when you’re scared of something/someone, your mind tends to race and even the worst case scenarios became plausible. Better safe then sorry.
And it kind of ties into the whole idea of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis being somehow affiliated with the occult, which is also historically inaccurate. You can blame that one on Indiana Jones and, well, the History Channel.
There isn’t much evidence for any of it, but there are a lot of stories, some of which even integrate the saucer stuff and the occult. In the 1960s, Jan Udo Holey wrote that after making contact with aliens, Hitler escaped to Antarctica with the Thule Society to build spaceships, before retreating into the hollow Earth to commune with the advanced beings living there, while occasionally emerging to cause UFO sightings around the world.
Which is only slightly more ridiculous than what we saw on Project Blue Book this week.